Friday, December 01, 2006

The Day Rainbow Died

I learned something new yesterday: fish don't necessarily float when they die.

I should have known something was up. A couple of days ago, the girls were freaking out because they thought Rainbow, their blue and red male Beta, was spending a little too much time at the bottom of the bowl. This is not unusual behavior for Betas. They lead pretty uneventful lives (unless you put two males together) and their little fins must get tired from hovering in one spot, so they take a little rest on the rocks. Kailey watched Rainbow as he "rested" and grew concerned that he wasn't just "resting", so she shook the bowl. To her relief, he zipped to the cover of the fake green plant suckered to the bottom of the bowl. She told me she was concerned about Rainbow's health and I told her not to worry. "You'll know when Rainbow dies, because fish float when they die." Little did I know that my words would later serve to save my butt.

Well, Kailey must have taken those words to heart, but they still didn't completely alleviate her fears about Rainbow. As Diane tucked her into bed last night, Kailey asked her to go check on him. I was in Kyra's room telling her a story when Diane walked in, usually the cue for us to switch rooms. She grabbed me and gave me a hug as I headed into Kailey's room. " likey," I thought as she whispered in my ear. But what she whispered in my ear puzzled me. If she's trying to get me into bed, this clearly was not working. I pulled away from her and shared my puzzled look. "What?" I muttered. She pulled me close and whispered again.

"Rainbow's dead."

I sighed and headed to the family room to see for myself. I saw the bowl across the room and immediately scanned the surface for Rainbow's body. I didn't see it. As I drew closer, I could see his little body resting on the rocks. I shook the bowl and he tipped over on his side. He wasn't looking so good. Crap. What are we going to tell the girls?

I returned to Kailey's room and tucked her in, then Diane and I put our heads together to figure out what to do. Problem #1: school. We didn't want to inform the girls of the death of their first pet before bedtime or before Kailey went to school in the morning. We didn't want her to be blubbering at school all day long. Problem #2: we would both be at work after the girls finished school, so we couldn't tell them then, either. Furthermore, we didn't want to tell them and then have to pass any post-mortem grief counseling on to Diane's parents, who would be watching them.

OK, maybe we're horrible parents, but this is the best we could come up with. And if there was ever any doubt about where I'll be heading upon my earthly demise, this may serve to clear things up a bit. We left Rainbow in the bowl. If the girls happened to notice his rotting carcass on the bottom of the bowl, then we would deal with the aftermath. If they didn't notice him, then Diane would drop Kyra off at school and make a beeline to the pet store to get another Rainbow. I know, I lane to hell.

Well, the girls must not have been all that concerned about Rainbow because neither of them bothered to check on him. So we executed plan B, full speed ahead. Diane picked out a new fish and I disposed of the evidence. As I cleaned out his bowl I couldn't help but think of all the good times we had: the Pavlovian way he would come to the surface for food whenever I opened the lid to the bowl; the way he liked to lay in the blue rocks lining the bottom; the way he, um, well, that's pretty much it. There wasn't too much more to his life. I'd like to think that he's now in a better place, but I know better, since I wrapped his body in a paper towel and flushed him down the toilet. I can only hope that all pipes really do lead to the sea. Sorry buddy.

Diane returned home with Rainbow II (Electric Boogaloo) and we introduced him to his new home. He's much more active than Rainbow was, and that's not just because he happens to be alive. Like I've said earlier, Rainbow liked to lie around a lot.

Diane later discovered that at some point before bedtime on that fateful evening, Kailey apparently shook the bowl and got no response from Rainbow, which prompted her to ask Diane to check on him. Now I don't know this for sure, but I think that since Kailey saw Rainbow on the bottom of the bowl, not floating, she didn't believe he was dead. So, in essence, my ignorance bought enough time for us to perpetuate a lie to our children. Merry Christmas. The girls are SO going to need therapy. That's OK. They can join me. Maybe we'll get a group rate.

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